How Wizards are experimenting with new lineups


WASHINGTON -- There are some significant variables at play right now as the Wizards aim to hammer down a rotation following the return of a series of key regulars.

Two of those players - Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura - recently made their season debuts after long absences and remain on minutes restrictions. The team is also missing their head coach, as Wes Unseld Jr. is in health and safety protocols, leaving assistant Pat Delany as his replacement.

Bryant and Hachimura are each playing about 12-to-15 minutes per game to start. Bryant is coming back from a year-long absence because of a partially torn ACL, while Hachimura did not play in live games from August until January due to personal reasons.

While Bryant and Hachimura have been with the Wizards for several years, Unseld Jr. and Delany are part of a new coaching staff. Bryant and Hachimura are also playing alongside many players who were acquired this past offseason.

That has led to a lot of experimenting when it comes to lineup combinations.

"Sometimes it’s just going to have to be put them in the fire and see what works, especially with them joining us later in the season," Delany said. " As we move forward and we get a better package of data to look at, where we see who they fit well with and who fits well with them, what two, three and four-man lineups work type of thing, we’ll adjust accordingly."

Hachimura has played 56 minutes across four games so far. Bryant has played two games and a total of 23 minutes. 


The most common lineup Hachimura has been on the court with includes Raul Neto, Deni Avdija, Kyle Kuzma and Montrezl Harrell. They have a +3.0 net rating as a group in a small sample size of 12 minutes.

Bryant's most common lineup has had a -18.8 net rating in just eight total minutes together. The other four in that group are Spencer Dinwiddie, Corey Kispert, Davis Bertans and Avdija. 

As you see, the lineups have been quite different for Bryant and Hachimura. The one common thread has been Avdija whose ability to defend and play multiple positions makes him compatible with different players.

As Delany explained after the Wizards' loss to the Blazers on Saturday night, the coaching staff scripts the lineups for the first three quarters ahead of time, barring foul trouble and other factors. The fourth quarter then goes more by feel based on who has played the best to start the game.

In both of Bryant's games so far, he's seen time in the fourth quarter. On Saturday, he played the majority of his 12 minutes in the fourth.

Bryant's best asset may be his shooting and that will play a factor in who he can play with. For Hachimura, Delany highlighted his defensive potential.

"I think he’s got the ability to be an elite-level defender, not just with bigger guys but smaller guys like [Blazers guard Anfernee] Simons that are quicker. As he’s around more, and we’re doing more and more stuff, I think it’s only going to help him. He does a lot of good things. The energy and physicality he plays with is a big asset for our team," Delany said.

The hope is that both Bryant and Hachimura can scale their minutes upward in the coming weeks and play themselves into midseason form in due time. But the more they play, the more the coaching staff will have to juggle the rotation to find them time on the floor.

It may be a while before they figure out more permanent lineups. In the meantime, expect plenty of mixing and matching as a new coaching staff adjusts to new players.